In the January 2008 issue of Large Display Report, we will report that Q4′07 PDP sales surged to fill the gap created by a shortage of LCD-TV panels. The shortage was particularly acute for 32-inch LCD panels, and the introduction in China of 32-inch PDP-TV sets based on LGE’s (almost) HD 32-inch PDP was startlingly successful. Prices for the HD PDP-TVs were about 20% less than for equivalent LCD-TVs in the Chinese market.
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Now, we may see an even greater PDP comeback in H2′08, says Alpha Wu, Chairman of Amtran Technology. He sees a continuing tight supply of LCD panels and an expected bounce in North American flat-panel TV demand leading up to the termination of analog broadcasting in the U.S. on February 18, 2009.
These comments come from a significant Taiwanese manufacturer of TV sets. Amtran is the primary maker of the TV sets sold under the very popular Vizio brand. How popular? Sales totaled US$198M (210K units) during the Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping seasons in North America. That made Vizio one of the top 2 TV brands in North American for the past two quarters, and Amtran’s revenues for Q4′07 are expected to US$616M.
With the supply of LCD panels remaining tight in 2008, PDPs will get a boost in the smaller sizes as well as in the 50-inch-plus segment, Wu said. If PDP-TV vendors can further lower their production costs and retail prices, their sets can compete favorably in the 30-inch-and-above market.
PDP-TV vendors are well-prepared for such a comeback, Wu said. They have become more effective at cutting costs, and can pose a strong challenge to their LCD competitors. But Wu went on to say that the PDP segment will be stronger if the current five panel makers are winnowed down to two. Which two can he be thinking of? Matsushita (Panasonic) has the largest market share by far and has been the most profitable over the last two years, so that choice is a no-brainer. The other two of the Big 3 are Samsung SDI and LGE. At CES, I’ll ask Vizio whose PDP panels they are using.
Wu went on to say that Amtran is not worried about the LCD panel shortage because PDP is a viable alternative, and the company is optimistic that it’s TV set shipments will not be negatively affected by an overall panel shortage. The 1080p segment will have a 50% market share in 2008, but he didn’t say (and didn’t have to) that there is more margin in 1080p, so that’s good news for set makers and panel makers alike.
A short digression: LCD and PDP are the technology choices for direct-view, large-screen TV in the foreseeable future. Only 2,000 OLED-TVs were sold in 2007 (and they must have all been by Sony), a number that Digitimes Research expects will grow to 18K this year, 50K next year and 120K in 2010. That’s huge growth but it’s still a small number, and most of them will have small and medium-size screens.
For a brief moment, it looked as if Canon’s SED technology might provide another alternative for large-screen TV, but cost was prohibitive. Nonetheless, Canon was in deep denial about this and was pressing on with partner Toshiba. The Canon-Toshiba JV was split apart because it violated the licensing agreement under which Canon was using SED/FED technology licensed from Nano Proprietary Inc., and Canon subsequently made a couple of high-profile moves toward OLED technology. SED seemed dead.
In the last few days, though, Canon announced it would continue with SED using its own technology not subject to the Nano Proprietary license. And Bryan Catmull informs me from Australia that Canon has now reserved additional space at CES, but without saying what it’s for. Could it be for another SED prototype extravaganza? We’ll see next week.